“My early decisions were rooted in fear”: How good hires can set small business owners free

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Classic Finance founder Nancy Youssef.

Most business owners decide to set up their own enterprise because they’re chasing freedom — the freedom to set their own hours, to work in their chosen field, to travel, to be their own boss, and to build a lifestyle that aligns with their values.

But the flip side to that ‘freedom’ coin is often fear. Whether you are running a one-man show, you employ a few staff or you’re building a bigger vision, the bottom line is when it comes to your business, the buck stops with you — which can create the ideal breeding ground for unnecessary fears to flourish.

When I started my first business, I was often operating from a place that was governed by fear. It held me back from truly stepping up and moving forward with a bigger purpose and impact — I was too busy worrying about the ‘what if’ to really consider the massive upside.

I launched Classic Finance in 2003, and now when I look back, I can see how much my early decisions were rooted in fear.

On the surface, it perhaps didn’t seem to be the case — I chose to launch my own mortgage broking business and boldly leave the safety and security of my corporate role. 

But the thing that most people don’t think about before they embark on this type of adventure, is whether they are well-prepared to be a self-employed business owner? I was quite out of my depth in those early days, because I wasn’t simply dwelling in all of the possibilities my new business would bring. I was also fretting about the possible pitfalls. 

Over the years, I’ve done a number of things in order to move past my fears and create a sustainable business that doesn’t only survive, but that truly thrives. And that journey really, truly began with recognising I couldn’t do it all on my own.

It took me far too long to realise that trying to do everything wasn’t benefiting anyone — least of all me! 

I was so fearful about hiring staff, because I laboured on in the belief that ‘if I want it done right, I have to do it myself’.

Eventually, I crossed paths with Belinda. She was a working mum looking for a flexible career, and she was good at budgeting and financial management, so she thought the mortgage world could be a natural fit. She was right, and very early on I realised she would be an asset to my team. Still, I initially hired Belinda only one day a week to ‘test the waters’, and she really had to prompt and encourage me to give her any meaningful work in those early days, such was my grip on the concept that I had to oversee every part of my business. 

Now, Belinda has become a key part of my team, and since hiring her, I’ve realised the value and importance of building a support team. It not only allows you to do more of the work that you truly thrive on, but it’s also a savvy financial move, as it frees you up to develop new business while your support team deals with the logistics of keeping the business ticking over.

Another strategy I used to conquer my fears, particularly relating to money, was to get a very firm grip on the numbers I was actually dealing with. I can still remember the sleepless nights as my business grew — nights where I would toss and turn, worrying about the costs of moving into a bigger office, of paying for a new fit-out, of covering wages each and every month, of anxiously pondering what would happen if we entered a financial downturn or rough patch again … which, as we all know, did come to fruition.

When stress and uncertainty kick in, it can be hard to reign in your fears, but I’ve learnt how important it is run my business based on data rather than feelings. I hired a consultant chief financial officer to help me with forecasting, budgeting, auditing and accountability, and that has really been the transition from what was (for nearly a decade) a lifestyle business into an actual, legitimate business. 

I’ve faced plenty of fears when building my business, including the fear of letting someone down, not making enough money, or of not fulfilling my promise. What I’ve discovered, however, is that with enough grit, passion and determination, these fears are almost always unfounded.

That’s why it’s essential to remind yourself that where there’s a will there’s a way — even if the way can at times be painful!

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